Vernal, or Ephemeral, pools are temporary ponds which form due to wet weather conditions, and provide critical shelter for animals and plants. Because they are small and shallow, they cannot support fish populations from year to year, which makes them prime breeding areas for amphibians. With the worldwide crash in amphibian populations (climate change, pollution, environmental estrogens) each pristine vernal pool is literally an oasis in a desert. That these pools remain unspoiled is critical, only cool clear water will effectively support the reproductive cycle. They also provide critical protein sources to other woodland animals such as racoons, skunks, mink and coyote.
A while back I got to volunteer as part of the Wood/Pawcatuck Watershed Association (http://www.wpwa.org/) who was conducting a field survey of all identified vernal pools in the watershed. They were doing this off old aerial photos – anything dark and pond-like from the air got GPS coordinates determined, and then pairs of volunteers went out and did surveys for things like water clarity and temperature, count and description of animals, lists of any environmental threats like dumped trash or runoff, etc. It was a blast, and I got to walk around on a few thousand acres of privately held and protected land. My partner and I had good luck and got a lot of data. I’m attaching some pictures.
More frog eggs:
Box turtle carapace:
Great Blue Heron nesting ground: